Hani/Akha Story: The Grasshopper and the Wren

This is another Hani/Akha Story generously provided by Paul Lewis and Bai Bibo. This can be downloaded as a Word Document by clicking on the link below, highlighted in blue.

Akha Tale The Grasshopper and the Wren

The Grasshopper and the Wren

Translated and Compiled by Paul Lewis and Bai Bibo

Long ago lady grasshopper and lady wren went to their fields to work every day. They would work together all day, helping each other out. One evening, just as night was falling, lady wren said to lady grasshopper, “Let us start home.” “You go ahead,” said the grasshopper. “My legs are long, and I can easily catch up with you.”

Some time after the wren had left, the grasshopper began to realize how very late it was getting. She started home, taking mighty leaps to get there while she could still see. But no matter how far she leapt it kept getting darker and darker, and she just did not know what to do.

Finally she came to the home of her friend, lady wren. “Oh please,” lady grasshopper begged, “let me stay here in your home tonight. I can never reach my home in this darkness.”

“No, you may not sleep here,” the wren replied emphatically. “Your legs are so long that you will crush my baby’s skull and kill her if you kick in the night.”

“But I promise not to kick your baby with my long legs in the night,” lady grasshopper replied. So with that promise lady wren let her stay, and they settled down for the night.

They were all sound asleep in the middle of the night, when suddenly a barking deer gave a sharp bark that rang through the forest. The grasshopper was startled, and kicked out with her legs. As the mother wren had feared, the long legs crushed the baby wren’s head, instantly killing her.

So the wren took the matter to the headman to have it settled. When lady grasshopper spoke she said, “Well, don’t blame me! The sharp noise from the barking deer made me kick like that. It was his fault.”

So the barking deer was called and the headman asked the deer why he barked, thus causing the grasshopper to jump and kill the baby wren. “Well, don’t blame me,” said the deer. “A dead tree fell down with a crash and scared me, so I barked.”

So the dead tree was called and the headman asked the tree why it had fallen down, thus causing the deer to bark, which led to the grasshopper crushing the skull of the baby wren. “Well, don’t blame me,” said the dead tree. “Termites were eating me and so I fell down.”

So the termites were called and the headman asked them why they ate the dead tree so it fell down and scared the barking deer so that by barking it frightened the grasshopper who crushed the head of the baby wren. “Well, don’t blame us,” said the termites. “The ground gave us no food to eat, so we had to eat the tree.”

So the ground was called and asked why it gave the termites no food, thus causing them to eat the tree that fell and scared the barking deer who then barked and startled the grasshopper whose long legs then crushed the skull of the baby wren. “Well, don’t blame me,” said the ground. “The water buffalo crushed me down so that I could give no food to the termites to eat.”

So the headman called the water buffalo and asked why it had crushed the ground so that the termites had no food, thus causing them to eat the tree which fell and startled the barking deer whose sharp bark startled the grasshopper, causing her to crush the head of the baby wren. “Well, don’t blame me,” said the water buffalo. “The leather harness I had to wear was choking me and so I stamped on the ground.”

So the headman called the leather harness and asked it why it had choked the buffalo, thus causing him to stomp on the ground, which then provided no food for the termites, leading them to eat the tree which then fell and made a noise, which startled the deer whose sharp bark startled the grasshopper, thus causing her to jump and crush the head of the baby wren.

“Well, don’t blame me,” said the leather harness. “A rat was biting me so I choked the buffalo.”

So the headman called the rat and asked why it had bitten the harness thus choking the water buffalo, causing it to stamp the ground so that termites could have no food and forcing them to eat the tree, which fell and frightened the barking deer whose sharp bark startled the grasshopper so that she jumped at the sound and thus killed the baby wren.  “Well, don’t blame me,” said the rat. “The cat was chasing me and about to catch me, so I bit the leather harness.”

So the headman called the cat and asked why it had chased the rat which caused it to bite the harness which choked the water buffalo, thus causing it to stamp the ground and prevent the termites from having any food, which then led to them eating the tree so that it fell down, causing the barking deer to bark, thus frightening the grasshopper who then killed the baby wren.

The cat lazily stretched out to its full length, and very disdainfully replied, “How dare you question me about this matter. After all, I am the daughter of the great king.” Having said that she took a stool out to the porch of the headman’s house and sat down on it, without saying another word. So everyone else just had to go home, since no one could match wits with the cat.

An area of southern Yunnan, People’s Republic of China, near Lüchen, where this story might have taken place.

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